Since I often blog and speak about my chronic illnesses, I occasionally find myself on the receiving end of an email that sounds something like this, “Hey Stephanie, my friend so-and-so just found out they have insert diagnosis here. I really want to send them a care package or a gift to show them I care. Could you give me some kind of idea of what they would want?” In fact, I get these sorts of messages so often I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog post to answering this, so I can point people towards this list in the future.
It’s important to remember: whether your friend or family member is facing a life long chronic ailment, is spending the next few months enduring chemo or radiation, is facing a long bedrest for pregnancy complications, or is learning to cope with a new physical handicap – every case, and every person, will be different. Not every gift is appropriate in every circumstance or personality, so above all, don’t be afraid to ask. But in the end, I know first hand how hard it can be to ask for help even when it’s offered, so hopefully this list will offer some great ideas when you have that friend says “it’s ok… we’re managing” (Yeah, guilty as charged on that one!)
Caring Crate Subscription Box ($39.95 per month, or discount if ordering multiple months)
Subscription boxes are all the rage right now, and this incredible company decided to create a box specifically to minister to the needs of the chronically ill. Every box has beautiful self care products for the body and mind, each hand chosen with those suffering from long term illnesses in mind. They are the perfect gift for somebody going through cancer treatments since you can arrange a 3 or even 6 months subscription so that when the initial wave of cards and calls start to taper off, they are still receiving beautiful reminders each month that someone is thinking of them.
Spoon Necklace ($14.99)
Members in the chronic illness community have adopted the spoon as one our most important symbols, often referring to ourselves as “spoonies.” The inspiration behind this comes from an incredible post called The Spoon Theory, that you can read all about here. A spoon necklace is a touching way to tell your friend that you understand the choices she faces each day with managing her “spoons.” I suggest adding a thoughtful note to let them know you always want them to have an extra spoon for those especially tough days.
Spoon Keychain ($6.00)
In the same spirit as the spoon necklace, you could also consider this spoon keychain, so they always have an extra spoon when they’re on the go. This is also a great alternative for the friend that doesn’t really wear jewelry or even for men.
Grace Not Perfection® Art Print ($20.00)
Our friends at over at Emily Ley have created this beautiful art print with the phrase “I will hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection.” This mantra is especially poignant to the chronically ill, and can be beautifully displayed via this gold foil print. Emily’s mantra has since become a global sensation, absolutely blowing up pinterest and being featured in multiple major publications, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a meaningful reminder we could all could afford to reflect on daily. Emily is even releasing her very first book under the same beautiful title.
Empathy Cards from Emily McDowell Studio ($4.50 each)
Whatever the specifics of your loved ones particular illness, there is a card in this line especially for them. With a unique and sometimes sarcastic flare, Emily designed an incredible series of cards that skip the offensive platitudes and get to the heart of what real empathy is all about. Whether it’s admitting simply “There is no good card for this,” or the hilarious offer to punch the next person who says “everything happens for a reason,” these cards go the extra mile to show you aren’t expecting Hallmark to ever understand what your friend is going through – and that’s one of the greatest gifts you can offer them.
Heated Throw Blanket ($29.95)
One of the best comfort items I own, hands down, is a heated throw blanket – and I’ve heard the exact same thing from countless other spoonies I’ve polled. A heated throw is more compact and easier to set up than a traditional electric blanket, so its perfect for sitting on the couch watching TV or even using in your chair at work. The one I linked here is a fantastic deal, since many of these can average around $40 or more.
Fur Throw ($26.95)
A great alternative to a heated throw is a beautiful fur blanket. These are the softest blankets around, so they are especially comforting to folks with sensory or nerve issues (like fibromyalgia.) Never under estimate the comforting power of a fantastic blanket to someone who spends a lot of time bed or couch ridden. Sometimes upgrading a simple pleasure like the blanket you use can really make a huge impact.
Heated Massage Pillow ($34.95)
Can’t afford to send your friend a lifetime membership to the spa or a full time masseuse? No worries: this heated massage pillow is an amazing substitution. This particular model can be used on a variety of different areas of pain, and is portable enough to use at home, at the office, or even in the car (it even comes with a special power adapter just for that purpose!)
There’s a reason essential oils are popping up all over social media and the blogosphere: it’s no exaggeration to say these little bottles are changing lives. A starter kit allows you to send your loved one a home diffuser as well as a variety of the most commonly used oils, and a membership to be able to purchase future oils and products at a special members only discount. Whether they are looking to support their immune system, cope with digestive discomfort, assist in pain management, promote healthy sleep, or just want to remove harmful chemicals from their lives to support wellness, essential oils can do all of that and more. (Disclaimer: I am a young living customer myself and the link above takes you to my personal sales page. I do receive income for purchases made using my links, but I have not been paid to promote young living and my opinions are entirely my own.)
Deep Relief Roll On ($35.20 retail for nonmembers)
If the starter kit and membership is a little out of your price point, or if your loved one is already a member with young living, I highly suggest this little baby – The Deep Relief Roll On. Easily one of Young Livings best sellers, this beautiful roller bottle contains a fantastic all natural alternative to products like icyhot or bengay. I carry one in my purse and keep another in my nightstand, because I simply cant be without one! (If you want to purchase a Deep Relief Roll On without signing up for a full premium membership, just choose “retail customer” when you reach the sign up page. This allows you to purchase any of Young Living’s products through me at retail price without having to sign up as a member.)
Gifts to Pass the Time
One of the hardest parts of many chronic illnesses can be the amount of time spent in bed, on the couch, or at treatment centers. Our bodies may be struggling, but all too often our minds are still sharp and it can be incredible difficult not to become depressed from the boredom and inactivity. Adult coloring is a great activity to help pass the time, and its seen a huge explosion in popularity as of late. This beautiful set has a gorgeous adult coloring book full of fine details, as well as a set of pencils that come in a lovely canvas roll up, making them super easy to take along to infusions or other long appointments.
Another great idea in the adult coloring theme is to send a book of scriptural meditations to color. This can be a great way to focus on hope and the promises of God’s word through some of the most difficult circumstances, all while enjoying the relaxing art of coloring. Your loved one can display their finished works of art as beautiful reminders of these promises, or even pass them along to others they meet at treatment who might be needing an encouraging word.
iTunes Gift Card (Varies)
And iTunes gift card is a wonderful way to minister to a friend suffering from long term illness, since it has so many ways to be spent. Download music to listen to at treatment, rent or purchase movies to help pass long hours in bed, or even use to purchase apps and games. The amount can vary to fit any budget, which makes it the ideal gift for any price point. Apple also lets you send digital gift cards via email, perfect for that far away friend in need.
One of the most thoughtful and versatile gifts might actually be an Amazon Prime membership. Yes, a prime membership does mean access to free 2 day shipping on a wealth of products sold via amazon, which can help save your loved one valuable time and energy on trips to the store. (And its worth noting Amazon sells a variety of home health aids, supplements, and other health items that are sometimes hard to find in stores.) But many people don’t know about the OTHER perks that automatically come with Prime – like tons of free books for Kindle or the Kindle app on other devices, and a whole wealth of free movies and television as well. It’s like getting them a grocery delivery service, an online library, and a netflix subscription all in one.
Adjustable Height Laptop Cart ($39.99)
Some gifts are that perfect little help that makes your loved ones life exponentially easier – often something they didnt know existed or never knew they needed. For a friend spending lots of time in bed or on the couch, one of these adjustable height carts can be invaluable. Whether to hold up a laptop for work or watching a movie, or whether used to serve meals to a loved one stuck in bed, these little guys can be a lifesaver. (This one here is a bit more expensive, but is a beautiful wooden option thats much like the ones used over beds in the hospital – without that hospital feel.)
Hands Free Hair Dryer Holder ($21.99)
This one definitely falls under “products your friend wishes every day existed – and it turns out they do!” It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t live with chronic fatigue or pain just how much energy showering takes, let alone drying your hair. And yet, there is something about having clean hair thats NOT up in another greasy ponytail that can be hugely reviving to someone who’s chronically ill. This nifty gadget actually holds the hairdryer up for your loved one, so that they don’t suffer the muscles aches and fatigue that can come from drying your own hair. It’s a lifesaving product that gives people with chronic illnesses the chance to feel beautiful a little more often.
Kenra Dry Shampoo Spray ( $15.42)
From fashion magazines to the blogosphere, women everywhere are buzzing about dry shampoo spray. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: the chronic illness community has been allll about this miracle product for quite some time, and we know better than most that not all dry shampoos are created equal. This is a fantastic one, and it can help your loved one buy some extra time before they are stuck choosing between the greasy ponytail or the energy drain of a full shower and hair wash routine. It would the perfect item to add to a custom gift basket of self care goodies.
Shower Replacement Wipes ($9.99)
These are another great item to grab when you’re putting together a gift basket for a loved one with a long illness. We’ve all heard of using a baby wipe to keep fresh when you aren’t able to shower, but many folks don’t know there are wipes designed with that exact purpose in mind – and yes, you really can feel the difference. These are great for women experiencing pregnancy bedrest, or folks suffering long term fatigue issues that make regular showers difficult to manage.
Send over a Housecleaning Service (varies)
One of the most thoughtful gifts, but also one of the most practical, is sending over a one time housecleaning service or gift certificate to a cleaning company. Sometimes it can be really difficult to ask for the help we need, even when our friends are offering, so I always encourage people – be proactive; don’t ask your friend or loved one if they need help, just assume they do and send some over. A cleaning service or even a landscape maintenance service, is an invaluable way to address the most pressing needs of someone who isn’t able to get up and about the way they’d like.
Thanks to amazing websites like Take Them A Meal, you can easily coordinate volunteers to bring your loved ones delicious home cooked meals. When you live with chronic fatigue or illness, you often don’t have the energy to cook healthy meals yourself, but most convenience foods or take out can actually make health issues worse because they lack the valuable nutrition our bodies crave. Arranging volunteers to deliver healthy home cooked meals is a free and easy way to provide super practical support to friends who are ill. You might also check out Lotsa Helping Hands, which allows you to coordinate not only meals but also volunteer child care for friends in need.